frost tolerant plants

Christmas in the Garden

It’s been a postcard-perfect day here in Central Florida (no, those aren’t Christmas trees).  The sun is shining, the temperature’s pleasant and the kids…well the kids are chomping at the bit for Santa’s arrival!

But aren’t we all?  Presents cascading in mounds from beneath the tree, candy canes poking from stockings stuffed fat with trinkets and sweets, the delicate aroma of pancakes drifting through the house (nice images though far from reality in our house!), the magic of Christmas morning lives.  And it’s not limited to the tree, oh, no –  I discovered it can also be found in the garden!

Wandering out to the garden for the first time since the hard freeze of last week (I’ve been suspended in a fog of green depression, mind you — and shopping and baking and mingling, all the while trying to keep up with my regular life), I learned something.  Yes, my plants are dead as scarecrows, but not all is lost. 

Well, the corn are toast, but the carrots and garlic and cabbage are not!  Neither are the onions and broccoli.  Hallelujah! 

If I could have, I would leaped for joy and clicked my heels, jingling bells included.  I don’t leap anymore (joints won’t allow such foolishness) and I have no bells (kids broke them), but I do have potatoes and that is cause for celebration.  Joyous celebration!

Look at these beauties!  Aren’t they gorgeous?  Planted back in October (as a fervent potato enthusiast, I like to chance the odds), these plants had enough time to produce some beautiful round potatoes. 

Some of these were the offspring of my spring potatoes and some were from grocery store purchased organic Yukon gold.  I can’t really tell the difference — I’m better at eating them than growing them — but they are in far better condition than what could have been their fate.   (Dry brown leaves don’t photosynthesize nearly as well and thus, produce, nothing.)

Needless to say, I’m pleased as a reindeer on his way home from Christmas.  Time to eat boys and girls!

“What’s for dinner, Mom!”

Why, it’s funny you should ask…  Sloppy Joes and healthy potato fries!  

“YUM!”  came their choir of response.

Kids love this kind of food.   And my husband?  Well, there’s always leftovers, right?  Sure he doesn’t prefer last night’s meal, but it’s not like I’m starving him or anything.  It’s hard to please everyone all of the time.

Which is why I quit trying.  We all must compromise.  It’s the way of the family dinner table. 

At least in our house.  “Have another serving, kids.  There’s plenty to go around!”

Frost Tolerant Plants

Which are and which are not?  It’s an important question with a valuable answer.  One the kids learned this week.

Central Florida froze.  Unusual this time of year but certainly not unheard of, our temps dipped into freezing territory and despite our frost protection efforts, they killed our plants. 

The kids took it kinda hard. 

 

(A little dramatic, aren’t they?)  They’re passionate about their garden and hate to lose the first leaf.  Usually create a ceremony for such events.

These squash were hurting from fungus BEFORE the frost and truth be told, they probably didn’t stand a chance either way.

However, it’s worth taking note that not all plants dislike the cold.  Some actually prefer it, like broccoli, cabbage and spinach.  These plants don’t thrive in warm weather but they do in cold.  And look at these sweet creatures.  

Our strawberries managed to tolerate the frigid mornings. 

So take heart kids — while our tomatoes suffered a horrible blow all the more horrid because they were SO beautiful and lush — a significant feat when it comes to the garden), we still have a ton of plants to look forward to harvesting, like carrots and onions and sweet peas, to boot!

On another bright note, we clipped our basil before the freeze and dried the leaves in the oven.  Simply put them on a baking sheet and set the oven to low and bake for a few hours (or until dry and crispy).  Voila

Pizza, anyone?  Pasta?  This dried basil of ours rivals any store-bought kind and…as these savvy students were quick to point out–costs a lot less!

So while our lesson today was the identification of frost tolerant vegetation, we learned about drying herbs, too. 

Next week?  Crop rotation.  We’ll pull out the old and prepare for the new — with a very specific order in mind.  You see, an integral part of organic gardening is crop rotation.  And similar to knowing which plants make friendly companions in the garden while growing, crop rotation involves knowing which plants like to be where which plants used to be.  Confused?

You won’t be next week!  Until then, gardeners… 

It’s just another day in the life of the garden.